Give or take a few, there are seven sheep for every man, woman and child in New Zealand.

Or, to put an actual number on it, there are approximately 30 million of these mostly white colored animals. Does that mean that sheep overwhelm the country? Certainly not, but it does mean you’ll see a lot of them wherever you go there.

My first exposure came when we saw field after field full of them, when my wife and I drove to the town of Rotorua.

The history of New Zealand dates back approximately 700 years to when it was discovered and settled by Polynesians, who developed a distinct Maori culture. As we quickly found out, you’ll find a lot of weird and wonderful Maori and Polynesian names throughout this gorgeous country.

On our way to Rotorua, we stopped to experience the magic of the Waitomo Caves. The best way to do this, is by taking a boat tour where you’ll discover an ancient, mystical world 300 million years in the making.

My wife Brigitte and I were mesmerized by this extraordinary attraction, and it made us both feel as if we’d been transported into a magical world. The highlight is the starry wonderland of the Glowworm Grotto, where thousands of tiny creatures radiate their unmistakable luminescent light in a subterranean world.

Do you research a destination before you visit?

I do, but I also love natural surprises. Well, as we approached Rotorua, our nostrils were besieged by an appalling bad-egg aroma.

Fear not, good traveling friends, as this smell comes from a region rich with geothermal sulphur activity. It produces bewitching throbbing geysers and bubbling mud pools that dot the landscape. And up close and personal, these effervescing and gurgling mud pools are, if nothing else, a photographer’s delight.

The longer we stayed in this beautiful country, the more intrigued we became with the Maori culture. Our visit to the Maori Cultural Center in Rotorua gave us insight into the Maoris, their background and proud heritage.  

We were riveted by a display of local customs, particularly the Maori Greeting.

The traditional greeting, titled a hongi, is done by pressing one's nose and forehead (at the same time) to another person at an encounter. ... In Maori legend, woman was created by the gods molding her shape out of the earth. The god Tāne (meaning male) embraced the figure and breathed into her nostrils.

Working, as we both did for Continental Airlines (my wife as a flight attendant and I was manager of publicity) we both sought out romantic getaways in our worldwide travels, and we knew we wanted to go to the South Island and take the SS Earnslaw classic, red funnel Swiss look-alike steamer cruise in Queenstown. Even though we could have flown there, we decided to take the Interisland ferry from Wellington in the North Island, to Picton in the South Island.

This classic ferry is the longest running Cook Strait ferry service in New Zealand. It's become known as one of the most beautiful ferry journeys in the world. Indeed, New Zealanders will proudly tell you it is one of their country's most iconic tourism experiences.

We found that to be true, and it was romantic. Journey time is a relaxing three hours, but if the weather is not good, it could take additional two hours.

Visitors to New Zealand, even so called “jaded travelers who’ve been there and done that,” must be impressed not only by the stunning beauty of the country, and its phenomenal diversity, but also the equally amazing stunning array of things to see and do. An outstanding example of that, is Queenstown.

Queenstown is really New Zealand's answer to Switzerland.

There are two things you must do here. One is to take the Shotover Jet boat trip. It's a luxury speed boat that roars along the Shotover River. What makes the trip so special is the river is only a foot or two deep. As your Shotover jet boat soars into the sides of the river banks at top speed, it's pretty scary, but tons of fun.

Then too, you must take the classic SS Earnslaw steamer on the Lake and visit the Walter Peak sheep farm – they have trips there that include lunch and a fascinating sheep dog show. We took the evening tour which included dinner. 

Your trip to New Zealand is a marvelously memorable experience you’ll tell your friends about forever.

Contact John via email at jdcradio@gmail.com

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